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Amazing Amateurs: Tony Agapitos

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This article is part of our Amazing Amateurs series about home movies from the 1940s-60s, shot by the first generation of Australians with access to home film cameras.

We're currently digitising thousands of hours of home movies which have been donated by families of these pioneering filmmakers. The film reels contain all kinds of footage, from family holiday trips to the occasional only-known recording of important historical moments, and they provide an incredible snapshot of life in Australia in the middle of the 20th century.

Read more about process of digitisation, or check out other footage on YouTube.

The film works of Tony Agapitos

Tony Agapitos was a Greek immigrant and filmmaker who documented life in Melbourne's Greek community from the 1950s to the 70s. He focused on significant political, social and religious events, including the arrival of Greek ships at Victoria docks, celebrations and dances, protest marches, political meetings and religious occasions. Mr Agapitos' material comprises approximately three hours of footage and was shot on 16mm and 35mm film, which is preserved in our collection.

Young boys walking down the gangplank stairs holding hands, from their ship's journey from Greece to Melbourne. (Black and White)

Born in Egypt to Greek parents, Tony gained valuable qualifications in filmmaking during his lifetime. He was involved in cinematography, specialising in documentary and news films, and also worked as a projectionist and technical director. 

A profile head-shot of a young Greek-Australian woman with her hair specially styled for the Miss Greek Charity Quest c.a. 1965 (black and white)

After arriving in Australia in the late 1940s, he was employed from 1950-1953 as an instrument engineer with S.L.I. Lucas Australia. From 19531958 he was with Herschell’s Film Studio where he was involved in film maintenance and production. This included directing, editing, camera work and sound recording. Tony was active in the production of films for D24 Masonic Hospital and he also produced his own films. From 1958 he was at the State Film Centre, employed as a Biograph Projectionist travelling all around Victoria.

Point-of-view from behind the crowd at the rail of a ship, looking to Melbourne's shore, people are on the Victoria Dock. One man has turned to look at the camera. (black and white)

Some of Tony’s personal footage was shown in a documentary about the history of Station and Princes Piers in Port Melbourne, as part of a restoration celebration in 2012. Princes Pier in particular played a key role in Australia’s wartime and multicultural history as the first landing in Australia for thousands of post war migrants. Tony’s films capture the pathos of the new arrivals; they are beautiful and emotionally powerful evocations of the experience. 

Two young girls in traditional Greek costume, with 1960s hairstyles, smile at the camera. (black and white)

Fragments of Tony’s work have also been used by participants in our Digital Storytelling workshops, bringing strong narrative drive to the participant’s personal stories, enabling them to communicate the complex emotional landscape of arrival in a strange country.

Donate to the ACMI Collection to preserve our shared past.

Arrival of Greek ship 'Patris' at Victoria Dock 1961
Fundraiser BBQ and dance
New Year and Miss Greek Charity Quest
House Party with Ninolakis
Protest March Melbourne
National Day of the Greek Community at Olympic Pool 1966
National Greek Day 1966
Greek Dance 1961